Republic Cafe

Univ. of Washington. Jan. 2019. 96p. ISBN 9780295744537. $19.95. POETRY
OrangeReviewStarIn his latest poetry collection, former Stegner fellow Biespiel (Charming Gardeners) examines the nature of love and memory in the wake of a national tragedy—specifically, the 9/11 attacks. Influenced by Alain Resnais's Hiroshima Mon Amour, this long poem (in 54 sections) shares the intimate, time-sequencing quality of the film. One section begins, "This is a journal about the corpses of war," and Biespiel likens the 9/11 attack to Hiroshima and the Holocaust: "If you ask me what is the shape of the world,/ I would say it's a spiral, a cone, a wisp of smoke." No matter how great the disaster, how many lives were ended or affected by it, the poet does not despair; instead, he proves that love goes on: "Desire causes two to be in defiance./ Two to be released from the pain of the world." Occasionally, a metaphor or string of piled-on phrases overwhelm a poem, but the whole stays with you after reading.
VERDICT Eloquent and personal, beautiful and wrenching, these poems mine deeply the nature of love, violence, and memory, drawing you into a world of evil and pain but also touch, healing, and love: "Forehead to forehead, we tasted each other's name." Not to be missed.

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